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UNIONS ARE DANGEROUS TO BUSINESS AND TAXPAYERS
February 3, 2006
GRANTS PASS, Oregon -- Every state and community across the nation is now facing powerful public employee unions (PEU) when it’s time to renegotiate public employee contracts. The unions are aggressive, self-serving, and will strike, shutting down or crippling essential public services when it’s to their benefit in order to intimidate and win larger concessions. Public employee unions have grown disproportionately in strength in recent years, compared to unions in the private sector. In the US work force about 12.5 percent of all workers are union members, as of 2005. About 9 percent of employees in the public sector are union members.
Government employees are over 4 times more likely to be union members than those in the private employment sector.  Unions are quite successful in making taxpayers cash cows, especially in small communities, due to elected public officials who represent the taxpayers during contract negotiations. These officials either fail to understand that they are dealing with a many headed hydra,  are intimidated by union representatives and public employees, or they sympathize with the unions and have received cash favors from them. Unions are notorious for buying influence and spending millions of dollars to influence the outcome of county, state, and national elections.
Accountant’s Position at $38,000 Salary Costs Taxpayers over $70,000
Josephine County Commissioners had the opportunity to stop the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME) by putting an end to the vicious cycle of salary and benefit demands and starting a large scale reduction in their lavish benefits. It appears that many public employees are being paid beyond their true cash value for services rendered. Public employee salaries only hint at the true cost for any position in the courthouse. An accountant who receives $38,000 annually has benefits costing 30-33 percent of his salary; then when he retires another accountant takes over his job. A factor of 1.5 is used to estimate the cost of the new accountant and the retirement pay of retiree. The $38,000 accountant position is, in fact, costing taxpayers as much as $75,000.
The actual cost for all county positions is proportionately the same for all jobs in county government. The public is very much misled by just the salary numbers used to describe what an employee is paid. The cost to maintain a public employee is excessive. Big business can’t afford the union benefits, and these costs are rising like a river reaching flood stage after the dam breaks. Nor can the taxpayers who are drowning in the cost of union benefits packages for public employees.
Raffenberg, a true representative of the people.
Josephine County residents are in debt to the Public Employees Retirement System fund (PERS) for $45-47 million. Josephine County took out a $13 million bond in 2000. In the past five years PERS has increased by an unfunded liability of $32-35 million. The county’s sell back of personal leave is $6 million and is an unfunded liability. These are unfunded liabilities created by egregious union contracts agreed to by past and present county commissioners with the exception of Commissioner Jim Raffenburg. Employee pensions, benefits, and some salaries are excessive and outrageous, yet Commissioners Ellis and Riddle failed to seize this crucial opportunity to put AFSCME in full retreat.
They claim that they were able to save the county about $800,000 this year with the new AFSCME contract. These numbers have not been qualified and are dependent upon an existing lawsuit filed by county managers. If the suit is won by the managers, the $800,000 savings could dwindle considerably as AFSCME has a “Me Too” clause in their contract that entitles them to similar benefits. I called both Commissioners Ellis and Riddle in regards to the charges made in this article. Riddle responded with helpful information, and Ellis did not return two calls.
Unions Are Giving Businesses the Business
In the 1980’s United Auto Workers (UAW) put International Harvester out of business. Recent headlines read, “Ford Ready to Layoff up to 30,000.” In 2004 Ford Motor Company lost $1.49 billion dollars. Ford stocks are now mingling with the infamous junk stocks. Ford is stuck with high labor costs and health care costs. It is attempting to get concessions from the UAW. General Motors lost 1.6 billion in the third-quarter of 2004. It appears the UAW would rather scuttle Ford and GM than make reasonable cost concessions. For every new car sold in the US, health care costs add between $1,000 and $1,500. Foreign imports don’t have that added cost to pass along to the consumer. This makes American autos less competitive in the marketplace. Like parasites, some unions don’t know when to quit.
The big airlines are in trouble trying to keep flying due to the added weight of Draconian union contracts they agreed to that are sucking the life blood out of the airline industry. Both United Airlines and US Airways are in bankruptcy. The well known airlines are unable to pay the bills due to rising jet fuel prices, competition, and escalating union pension financial obligations. United Airlines was in debt to its employees’ pension plan through union contracts for the staggering sum of 9.8 billion dollars. It couldn’t pay the obligation and stay flying. Good- hearted Uncle Sam, who is also broke, smiled and said he would assume the debt through an entity called the Corporation (PGBC). As businesses bail out of their pension liabilities, PBGC has been assuming responsibility. The organization is tottering and congress is looking at tapping the taxpayers for funds to cover PGBC’s liabilities. Northwest Airlines has joined the club; it’s the latest U.S. airline to warn it faces bankruptcy without concessions from its unions and an infusion of cash.
400 Applicants Ready to Replace Union Workers
When 200 public employees went on strike, the county commissioners received over 400 applications in response to a help wanted ad run in the local newspaper. Strikers ratified an amended agreement approved by Commissioners Ellis and Riddle receiving better terms than the commissioners originally offered them. Commissioner Raffenburg, who is representing the people of this county and not the AFSCME, has the foresight to know unions’ continual costly demands must be stopped now for the good of all Josephine County citizens. This county faces the loss of 14-16 million dollars in annual federal timber revenues, and that specter is haunting those concerned with the future funding of essential public services. The AFSCME contract expires about the same time these iffy funds could dry up.
Public Employees Fund Socialist Agenda
The public sector is a fertile and lucrative environment for union recruiters. In the private sector union zealots have put more than one corporation into financial distress (bankruptcy) and others out of business, as we shall discuss in this article. The public sector doesn’t have to show a profit at the end of the year, and it’s easier for organized labor to get outrageous salaries, benefits, and cushy retirement plans that would and do bankrupt private businesses. Some consider public employment as early retirement. Union officials keep public employees hypnotized with rhetoric that fills their heads with the dreams that only an Aladdin’s lamp can provide. They do get cradle to the grave security for themselves and their families as a special group of citizens at public’s expense.
Once public employees are under the spell of their union reps they also become the source of revenue to fund the multiple millions of dollars the national unions use to promote a socialist agenda. This union money enables the unions to buy and influences senators, congressman, etc. who then act as the unions’ proxy in the legislative bodies of congress, the state house, and the county or parish courthouse. The tentacles of the unions reach far beyond what your local paper reports. (Take a good look what the teachers union (NEA) has done to the public school system). For example: John Carlisle, in Human Events on line says, “In the 2004 election cycle, union political action committees gave more than $58 million to political parties and candidates. Of this amount, 87 percent went to Democrats. Unions also donated about $100 million to pro-Democratic 527 committees, which ran ads and conducted get-out-the vote efforts.  The Democratic Party, in fact, has become so beholden to the unions, that the latter has virtual veto power over party policy decisions.”
Let’s Get Together, Yea, Yea, Yea
Prior to the strike both Ellis and Riddle stood tall and resolute when AFSCME, an AFL/CIO affiliate, came charging up the courthouse steps demanding more money and benefits in their contract negotiations. At that time the commissioners were the “Magnificent Three” saying NO to AFSCME’s “High Noon” threat of give us what we want or we’ll tear county government apart. In the past commissioners didn’t say no when the AFSCME spoke. This NO outraged union officials and some of its county employee members. About 200 of 350 AFSCME members went on strike and the other loyal public employees kept working, On Monday, Jan. 9th, some strikers began picketing the big white courthouse with signs and a bullhorn blasting the commissioners for failing to tuck tail and run at that time. In this version of “High Noon” Ellis and Riddle abandoned their previous position and didn’t show up for the fight. They began singing, “Let’s Get Together, Yea, Yea, Yea” leaving Raffenburg to face the AFSCME all alone. Meanwhile, in the Daily Courier, activist writer Patricia Richter, like a spider, spun and twisted the truth in her coverage of the AFSCME strike from a liberal viewpoint.
First a tentative agreement by Ellis and Riddle was given the AFSCME. Next an agreement was reached by these two commissioners with AFSCME on Thursday the 12th. The smiling union employees went back to work or whatever they do on Friday, drawing salaries and benefits that local private businesses can’t afford to pay and still make a profit at the end of the day. This happens because commissioners representing the taxpayers were unwilling to take this opportunity to put AFSCME in a full scale rout. This is going to have to be done at some time, and these commissioners have only delayed the inevitable. Even the saving of a potential $800,000 this year won’t solve the problem of excesses in government benefits and retirement. For the past twenty plus years Josephine County has had a long lineage of weak commissioners who have failed miserably to represent the best interests of the taxpayers.
Aesop and the Camel
The fable of Aesop and the Camel astutely describes why the public is now facing outlandish union retirement plans and benefits. The camel stuck his nose in the tent just a little and complained to the master how cold it was outside, and couldn’t he just put his head into the tent? The master allowed the camel to do so. Soon the entire camel was in the tent, and the good master was outside in the cold. That’s exactly where the unions have placed the taxpayers, outside in the cold. And it was done quite smoothly with a technique called Incrementalism. The following quote is attributed to former Senator Everett McKinley Dirkson, "A few billion dollars here, a few billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money!" The continual rising costs of public employee salaries, benefits, and retirements occur over a period of time, and the public isn’t aware of what’s taking place. The taxpayers are pulling the cart while the unions and its entourage ride and have been cracking the whip for many years. The unions as they exist today are not what the founding fathers had in mind when they established this nation. Union officials and public employees regard the taxpayer as someone with long ears and a tail who says “Hee Haw” and pulls carts.
AFSCME Members Applaud Sheriff Who Calls Commissioners Bullies and Thugs On Monday, Jan. 9th, during a morning rally a couple of professional motivators, Ken Allen, an executive director of AFSCME in Oregon, and Jim Alexander of the Southern Oregon Labor Council easily started copious amounts of adrenalin pumping in the hyped- up strikers. Then Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel, who appears to be retired while drawing full salary as sheriff and running for county commissioner for the next nine months, spoke at the rally egging the strikers on and inciting hate speech by calling the county commissioners naughty names. The Daily Courier reports Daniel said, “Don’t let the thugs bully you,” and he continued to label the commissioners as “bullies” and “thugs” during his time before the adrenalin pumped-up and mesmerized crowd. The Courier reports that Daniel’s remarks to the county employees who are now back at work, “brought loud bursts of applause from the crowd.”
While inciting this pack of commissioner haters, it sounds like the sheriff was campaigning for the office of commissioner. As a matter of fact, Daniel is hoping to unseat Jim Riddle as a commissioner and is now on record as calling him and targeting the other two commissioners at the same time as “bullies” and “thugs.” Daniel’s union background and inflammatory speech to the strikers shows he is not qualified to become a county commissioner. Daniel has a long line of baggage following him including being a bad administrator, having deputies who at one time gave him a humiliating vote of no confidence, and sporting the ghost of the nationally famous chicken Speckles hanging around his neck like a specter. The public is not likely to take the man seriously, for he’s an embarrassment to the sheriff’s office and Josephine County.
AFSCME Members Have Contempt for Commissioners
Who are these public employees who have such disdain for the county commissioners who have been quite popular with the voters? A Jan. 10th news release from the commissioners says the county services hit hardest by the strike are those that provide assistance to the county’s most vulnerable citizens (mental health patients, adults and children with developmental disabilities, and public health outpatient clients). These employees appear to passionately hate the commissioners, as you don’t applaud when someone calls an acquaintance, friend, or your boss a “bully” or “thug.” These public employees seem to have little or no compassion for others if it interferes with their pocket books. How good these AFSCME bigots are as county employees is a legitimate question.
Time for Public Employee Retirement and Health Care to be Reexamined
Anyone running for the position of county commissioner must fully understand what AFSCME and the AFL/CIO stand for. What is their political agenda? This agenda goes far beyond representing employees in Josephine County and goes all the way to Washington DC, filtering down to all the state capitals. The dues from millions of public employees are used in an attempt to influence, shape, and control national politics.
The public employees who pay these dues have no say on how their dues are spent. Many are Republicans, and most of their dues money goes to fund liberal Democratic objectives, such as those Edward Kennedy (D-MA) espouses. Another example is Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, (D-OR). In 1994 he consistently hit 100% on support of many socialist welfare programs supported by AFSCME. Its doctrine is alien to the US Constitution, and its goal is to turn this nation into a big socialist welfare state sissy. Any candidate for county commissioner needs to stop the hemorrhaging of tax dollars paying for public employee retirements and healthcare benefits. The public must not be saddled with debt to pay for future employee benefits.
The Dark Side Plots Against Family Homes
The settlement of this strike is not the end of the story. Even now the dark forces in Josephine County are gathering to launch an attack against family homes with a series of levies and likely taxing districts this November. The dark forces include County Treasurer John Harelson, Sheriff Dave Daniel, and Planning Department Director Michael Snider and others. All are considered to be extremely dangerous to family home ownership and property rights supporters.
All have shown a disregard of these Constitutional rights. The voters have not forgotten the overly generous 9 week paid leave for county administrators that was a factor in the election of the two new commissioners Ellis and Raffenburg in Nov. 2004. Also to be remembered are the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Sheriff Daniel lost in lawsuits by bad administrative policy, the deficit in give away union retirement plans, and the salaries, benefits, and health care that workers outside of government are unable to match.
When the dark side comes asking for your petition signature and vote, you will know they are not there to serve you but there to place a lien on your home so they can live the good life while the taxpayer struggles to make the house payment, support his family and pay the bills. Yes, we must have some public services, but not at any cost. When your public employees say, “We have come to serve you,” ask them, “Is that fried or broiled?”
County board of Commissioners:
© 2006 John Taft - All
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John Taft former president of Josephine County, OR. Taxpayers Association is presently an investigative reporter for the US-Observer and NewsWithViews.com. He has had many years of broadcasting, news writing and reporting experience. He also has written a popular conservative newsletter for a taxpayers organization to inform the public on taxing issues.
Commissioner Raffenburg, who is representing the people of this county and not the AFSCME, has the foresight to know unions’ continual costly demands must be stopped now for the good of all Josephine County citizens.